The Mills College track and field team will no longer be offered after this spring semester. Mills cut the sport due to the budget cuts implemented last semester in order to balance the College’s $3.5 million deficit.
“The only way that we could accomplish that was to cut a team,” said Themy Adachi, the Director of Athletics, Physical Education and Recreation (APER) at Mills, who was tasked with cutting a significant amount from the program’s curremt budget.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) have sponsorship regulations that Mills needed to meet that pointed toward the elimination of track and field being the team to cut. APER chose to cut track and field in order to maintain these regulations.
“Those that were possible to cut and still maintain our NCAA membership, two out of the three sports had endowments, so we had no choice but to cut the track and field team,” said Adachi.
Beginning this spring, Coach Lache Bailey will be serving her second year at Mills as the Head Coach of the Track and Field team. She started as an assistant sprint and hurdles coach in the 2008 spring season, with Laura Davis as the Head Coach.
Bailey explained last year that the team was awarded many ‘Lifetime Best’ awards, achievements given to runners who beat their best college career times.
“It was a brand new program, but we had 22 people on the roster and we competed in all our meets and every week our athletes did better,” said Bailey.
Bailey learned of the school’s decision to cut the program only an hour before team members did.
“Students are really disappointed and a lot of alumnae have reached out to me and wanted to know if there was anything they could do,” said Bailey.
Word of losing the Track and Field team has reached alumnae. whose feelings about the cut are mutual to Bailey’s.
“It’s a shame and depressing to see all these resources being taken away,” said alumna Gloria Gisel, who was part of the Track and Field team last semester.
Gisel described her experience on the Track and Field team as being “really cool” and “very empowering to see how all these women interact with each other.”
Last year, Bailey specifically recruited three students that decided to attend Mills in order to participate on the Track and Field team. Those students, according to Bailey, did not return for the 2012 spring semester and have transferred out of Mills.
“Nearly all of my fondest memories of my whole undergraduate career are of the Track and Cross Country teams with the friends that I have made on those teams,” said track and field team captain Mariah Olivera.
Other students who participate on the team, such as junior Nkosazana Nkululeko, are equally affected by the sudden decision to cut the team.
“I’m really saddened that the program is being cut, because I feel it has served as a very valuable experience for people at the college and for the Oakland community as well,” said Nkululeko, who participated on the Track and Field team for the past two years.
The Track and Field team established a sister program called “You Go, Girl!” where team members would mentor underserved girls in the Oakland community as well as help to improve their track and field skills and promote sportsmanship in order to begin practicing healthy competition.
Bailey and Adachi are encouraging Mills students to participate in the last season for the team. The team is scheduled to have their first meet on February 2nd at UC Berkeley.